I have fond memories of wandering into my grandmother’s dimly lit pantry. It was stocked floor to ceiling with canned goods, beans, and other packages. Outside of this room she had cold storage areas in that basement for storing fresh keepers such as apples and squash grandpa had grown the season before.
We all don’t have that luxury or knowledge today. What we do have is an opportunity to learn what might make a pantry, small or large, work for us. Not all pantries are created alike, but they do function alike.
WHAT MAKES A PANTRY WORK? Regardless of the type of pantry, the products must be rotated so that the older items are used first. What is the point of having a bunch of items in the pantry that are less nutritious, less functional, or downright unsafe?
1. Buy bulk, but create meal-sized servings that are easy to ‘grab and go.’ This will safeguard the larger stash as larger containers may be more difficult to handle (heft up on the shelf) or secure/seal from pantry pests. They can also make it more difficult to split out meal-sized servings and estimate needs.
2. Make the expiration date easy to see. It may be easier to just mark each container with large month/date notations as it goes into the pantry.
3. Inspect existing containers to make sure they have not expired or broken their seals. Double check any can that has dents. Dents can weaken the seal over time and cause problems. If the label is falling off, the can may be older than you think. If a can is leaking, swollen, or oozing—throw it out.
4. Note which items are used….and which are not. Things that do not earn their space can be removed. In the old days, one might store 50 pounds of wheat berries that eventually would be ground down to make bread. That will not happen in my house. But I could use that space for paper-towels.
5. There is more than one kind of pantry. Generally, several can be needed, including: Food and beverages, medicines and first aid, household items (toilet paper, paper towels, cleaners, soap, etc.), pet food and supplies, frozen items, and even games… after week 2, a new game might be just the thing to keep the kids happily distracted for a couple of hours.
The concept of building and maintaining a pantry is not new. How we choose what goes in there, how food is preserved, and how to cook out of the pantry may all be new ideas to explore! The picture is not my pantry…but it is a well-stocked and organized example!